The Avett Brothers came out with a new album in 2016 -- True Sadness. I wasn't really sure what I thought of it at first. Some of the songs I had been hearing live for the past year and already loved. A few were going to grow on me fast, I could tell. There were a few others that I really wasn't that into -- they seemed a big departure from all of their other albums and sounds, and quite frankly, I blamed Rick Rubin for everything.
After a few more spins, I figured it must have been what Beatles fans went through with the White Album and Sergeant Pepper's, and I know what I think of those albums today -- how they have just as much of a place in the canon as my sweet and precious love of Hard Day's Night and Help. I'd press on. I'd keep giving the other songs and treatments a chance.
But one song in particular knocked me flat on my back. I'd heard other fans talking about it -- how they'd been affected, how they were in tears, sobbing, in fact. I thought maybe they were just overly sensitive or a little dramatic. Or maybe I hadn't heard it yet. It's called "No Hard Feelings," and it's delivered by Seth Avett, the Avett I tend to have a closer affinity with, lyrically.
The song gobsmacked me for two reasons. One, was that I was already feeling sort of close to and missing from my father this summer. And as I listened to Seth wonder about what his last moments on Earth would be like, I could only imagine what my father thought about as well. It reminded me of the existential crisis I went through when my dad died -- where DO we go? What does happen to us? Did my dad wonder the exact same things? He *had* to have, right?
And I regretted that I didn't ask him more things and that I didn't talk to him more. That I didn't get more of our family history down. That I didn't reminisce about more things. That I didn't tell him more about what I admired about him and how much I loved him and was grateful for the things he did and gave to me.
I was fortunate to have time to spend with him and to know that his end was nigh. I had an opportunity that not everyone has. And I foolishly followed some silent edict that our family has always abided by -- that we don't talk about our feelings, and that we keep everything tucked away, hidden, close to our vests. I've changed so much about myself in the past 15 years, but couldn't quite overcome all of the past 40.
The other part of the song reminded me of the discord and resentments that have plagued me over the last year and how hard it is to have those hanging over my head. That they've done me no good. They've "kept me afraid and cold, with so much to have and hold." Life indeed is filled with loveliness and ugliness, but it's up to me how I navigate that -- with or without enemies.
I really struggle with this. I don't think that means I do nothing. There's so much work to be done and things to stand up for. Action to be taken. But I think I can do it in a way that I bring positive energy to my work rather than seeing things as a grudge or an evil to be taken on.
Working for peace rather than against war. Working for social justice rather than against a particular individual. Bringing light to places instead of focusing on the dark. I don't know how well I will do -- this sure seems like a daunting task. But I'd like to hear Seth's sweet voice in my ear, "I have no enemies," at the end of each day, because the reality that is being shown more often than not is that we don't know when we'll have our last. And it's best to have no hard feelings.
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